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Chipperfield Within Living Memory

2nd of December 2007

The fact that St Pauls Church was closed for most of the first 3 weeks in October this year whilst the lighting system was up-graded, made me look at some earlier periods of maintenance and improvement work.
It is difficult to believe that when the church was dedicated in 1838 by the Bishop of Lincoln, it had been built within one year at a cost of £1,500, which had been raised by public subscription. The amounts donated by villagers ranged from 2s.6d. (25p) to £50. Initially the church was lit by oil lamps, which were suspended from the rafters on chains. These would have entailed a considerable amount of regular maintenance involving the filling of lamps with paraffin oil, trimming the wicks and washing and polishing the glass globes. Each one had to be individually lit and carefully extinguished to prevent smoking of the glass.
About fifty years later, it was time for a change. The church was closed for several months whilst alterations and additions were made. The roof was re-slated; the main entrance was moved from the back to its present position on the north side and a porch was built. The balcony was removed and the triple-decker pulpit was reduced to one tier only. It was at this stage that the lych gate was erected by the Clayton family of Chipperfield House. The biggest alteration to the church was the extension of the chancel by several feet. The floor was raised by the height of the two steps we see today. A new shorter chancel window was installed and the original triple lancet stained glass window, dedicated to the memory of the first vicar, was inserted in the north transept. The restoration work cost about £950 and prior to the consecration service conducted by the Bishop of Colchester in September 1889, £780 had already been paid or pledged.
A desire to improve the churchs lighting system was expressed in the early 1900s and with the arrival of gas in Chipperfield, the future was looking brighter. According to the Rev Bertram Machins report, the 1909 accounts were showing a surplus of £39 despite the fact that a lot of money had been spent on fixtures such as some new lamps. The next vicar, the Rev. Charles Barker made an appeal for more money for the lighting fund and was delighted to have raised 13 shillings (65p) by July 1915. He said that just two more chandeliers were needed to complete the job and he was offering the old oil lamps for sale at 4 shillings (20p) each. He felt that all must agree with him that the gas lights were a distinct improvement in both appearance and performance. However, Mary Moore in 2000 recalled that the gas lighting used to be rather poor. From her childhood memories she could still picture the big flame that shot up to light the mantle, when the chain was pulled to turn the gas on.
In December 1920, the then Vicar, Canon Jeffries, recorded that the Church had been closed for a month to enable much needed renovation work to be done following the period of neglect during the First World War. The wall text ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty was removed from the chancel arch and the walls were painted a yellowish stone colour. The roof rafters, which had suffered woodworm damage in places, were filled, sprayed and re-painted, as was the ceiling. The church roof was repaired and made waterproof again, (The water damage shows clearly on an old postcard). An outside gas lamp was erected to brighten the lych-gate approach to the church.
In 1938 St Pauls celebrated its centenary year and for this special event Mrs Brousson of the Manor House generously offered to pay for the church to be redecorated. A team of about a dozen men from Waterhouses erected four tiers of scaffolding and completed the job in record time. The rafters were again treated for woodworm and re-painted dark brown. The walls were brightened with a grey stone coloured paint. Canon Jeffries and his congregation were amazed by the improvement and could not believe how dirty the walls had been!
Electric lighting came quite late to Chipperfield (it always amazes me that St Pauls School did not have it installed until 1954) and for the church this would have been the next obvious improvement. But when was it actually installed? A small brass plaque in the vicars vestry provides a clue. It states that an electric motor was provided by J.A.R.Clark of Highcroft in 1949 for the blowing of the organ. Up to this time the organ had been pumped by hand. So it is reasonable to assume that electric lighting was put in about this time. It was certainly in place when David Williams became a choirboy in the early 1950s. It would have been a far cry however from the very versatile state-of-the-art lighting system which the church has now had installed.
Note: most of these references are from issues of the Parish Magazine and the Watford Observer of the time.
Mary Nobbs

This page is edited by Tony

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